Thousands of collisions may have been prevented by a COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in largely empty roads across the GTA but police say that they are still seeing a concerning spike in stunt driving charges.
Toronto police tell CP24 that there have been 1,535 collisions reported since the province ordered the closure of many businesses on March 23. That is down 79 per cent from the same time period in 2019 when there were more than 7,300 collisions.
On OPP-patrolled roads, meanwhile, police have responded to fewer than 1,000 collisions since March 23. That is down 62 per cent from 2019.
Of course, it is not all good news.
Toronto police say that charges for driving in excess of 50 km/h over the speed limit remain stubbornly high as many drivers choose to take advantage of the empty roads.
Since March 23, Toronto police have filed 222 stunt driving charges. That is up nearly 600 per cent from the same time period in 2019. Speeding citations in general are also up nearly 25 per cent despite there being fewer drivers on the roads.
It should be noted that York Regional Police and Peel Regional Police have also told CP24 that they have seen a significant spike in stunt driving charges, though they did not provide specific numbers.
“This kind of speeding has become more prevalent because the roads are cleared but that is no excuse whatsoever,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Tuesday morning. “I would just say to everybody – not just the stunt drivers who are clearly people who are crazy – don’t do this please. Be more careful than ever now when the streets are clear and just obey the law. That is all we are asking people to do.”
Toronto police previously told CP24 that they saw a 195 per cent increase in stunt driving charges in the last two weeks of March so the updated numbers would seem to suggest that the practice is becoming even more prevalent.
Speaking with CP24, Tory said that he is confident that police will “redouble” their efforts to “crack down” on street racers and other reckless drivers, though he conceded that it can be a hard crime to enforce as it often happens in “isolated parts of the city at night.”
“While traffic volume may be lighter on the roads because of social distancing and self-isolation measures, there is still an expectation that all road users will act responsible and with the law,” Traffic Services Sgt. Jason Kraft said in a written statement provided to CP24. “All front-line Officers engage in traffic enforcement activities, including divisional officers assigned as part of their local Crime Traffic and Disorder Management response.”